TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Members of the 175th Wing, Maryland Air National Guard, and the 123rd Airlift Wing, Kentucky Air National Guard, helped build homes for Cherokee veterans in Tahlequah as part of the Defense Department's Innovative Readiness Training program, or IRT.
"These homes will be a change in the way the veterans are living," said Bryan Warner, deputy principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. "The benefits of this program are going to be priceless to the Cherokee veterans."
An average of 80 personnel worked on the site at any given time July 26 to Aug. 6.
"This type of training is pertinent to every career field," said Tech. Sgt. Wesley Diefenbach, a structures noncommissioned officer in charge for the 175th Civil Engineering Squadron, MDANG. "You have everything from structures, HVAC, electrical, and water and fuel systems maintenance. You have to do everything from the ground up in a house. It gives everybody the opportunity to cross-train, as well as get hands-on training for almost 50%-75% of their training core tasks."
"We're so proud of how our Airmen and all our joint services come together in these types of environments to provide a great service to our American communities," said Col. George Koklanaris, deputy director of innovative readiness training.
"This is a very joint environment," he said. "We have all six components of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force Reserve, as well as the Air National Guard and the Army National Guard, all working together on these projects."
Guardsmen from 23 states worked on this project, with the Air National Guard being the lead service component.
Senior Airman Johan Williams, cross-training from the Medical Group into civil engineering, said the project was an amazing experience.
"It's a different type of environment. We're outside a lot more and it's a lot more work and very hands-on," said Williams. "It feels remarkable knowing that it's a community-sponsored event. And we're helping out people in this area. The homeless population is high in veterans, and we want to serve them because they served us first."
This IRT mission provided invaluable training for members in civil engineering and gave members from the Services Flight hands-on experience preparing and serving over 200 meals a day to all the personnel working on site.
For the next three years, Guardsmen and Reservists from the Marines, Army, Navy and Air Force from across the country will continue to work to build 21 new homes for Cherokee veterans.